Health Watch – The Red Hot Hummers - Inflammatory Foods To Avoid or Eat in Moderation

Before we talk about inflammatory foods, a few things about inflammation generally.

What’s up with inflammation?

Inflammation is a physiologic process that can have a  protective purpose, triggering a healthy immune system to  respond to  wounds,  infection, external or internal toxins and damaged cells.  Inflammation is often the first step towards healing, unless the inflammation becomes chronic or out of control. … 

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Unresolved inflammation can lead to or worsen health conditions like heart disease, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune conditions –illnesses that have become epidemic in the West.  In fact, increased inflammation is associated with accelerated aging.

Food ….. for better or worse…. can play a huge role in promoting or discouraging inflammation and the diseases associated with it.


Inflammatory Foods – The Foods That Can Harm Your Health

Sometimes all it takes to avoid chronic disease or stave off premature aging is to avoid or limit inflammatory foods and replace them with anti-inflammatory foods.

For more about anti-inflammatory and inflammatory foods and the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet,  press here

For more on inflammatory foods, read on…

The Red Hot Hummers of inflammatory Foods?  

I’ve made a list of several inflammatory foods –the red hot hummers, if you will. These top the list when it comes to promoting inflammation.

They aren’t the only inflammatory foods – in fact,  there are oodles more. However, these  have made the red hot hummers list because they’re common in our typical Western diet, which, for the most part, is chockablock with inflammatory morsels.

Indeed, the prevalence of inflammatory foods in the Western diet is one reason why inflammatory illnesses like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and arthritis are epidemic.

The Inflammatory Food  List – The Ret Hot Hummers –

The Inflammatory Seven- Foods That Increase Inflammation


  1. Soda pop and sugary drinks
  2. Commercial dairy products including commercial milk, ice creams and  powdered milks
  3. Meat including smoked or cured luncheon meat, sausage,  bologna, bacon and ham
  4. Most commercially refined vegetable oils
  5. French fries  or, for that matter, pretty much anything deep fried
  6. Commercial baked goods made with hydrogenated vegetable oil products– Mini cupcakes with bright blue icing says it all!
  7. Margarine and  other  spreads made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats)

Inflammatory Food Themes – And I’m not talking party decorations

You’ll have noticed a few themes when it comes to the above list  of inflammatory foods.

Inflammatory foods almost always fall into at least one (if not more than one) of the following categories.    In fact, the more categories a food matches, the greater its inflammatory effect once it hits your digestive tract:

1.       Foods from animals including meat and dairy, excepting cold water fish.

2.       Foods high on the glycemic scale.

3.       Foods containing little or no fiber.

4.       Foods high in saturated, hydrogenated or damaged fats.


Food for Thought

Eliminating most processed food from you diet would be the best step to make your diet less inflammatory.

Some of the most inflammatory foods are, in the main, made from highly processed or refined ingredients.   Food processing tends to remove fiber and other anti-inflammatory nutrients; add sugars; and destroys or denatures anti-inflammatory oils.  As a rule, the further you stray from the original plant or animal, the more inflammatory the food.

Inflammatory Food for Thought  -  Soda pop or sugary drinksAny beverage with added sugar, whether it be  high fructose corn syrup or sucrose will be sky high on the glycemic index. This is one reason why soda pop and sweetened beverages are top of the inflammatory foods list.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?
The constellation of symptoms include (i) excess fat around the middle (an apple shape); (ii) high blood pressure; (iii) high blood sugar levels; and (iv) high cholesterol (HDL). - People suffering from metabolic syndrome are at especially high risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Low Glycemic Diets may be part of the treatment as part of a weight loss program.

The concentrated sucrose or fructose hit soda pop and other sugary drinks deliver sends blood sugar skyrocketing, provoking the pancreas to pump out yet another jolt of  insulin – both blood glucose and insulin in excess are inflammatory . The oceanic intake of sugary beverages in the US, especially among young people, experts believe is one reason fueling  the meteoric rise in Type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, fatty liver disease and obesity.


Anti-inflammatory Diet Solution: When it comes to drink,  keep it simple.  

Drink spring water from a reliable source or filtered tap water; unsugared  teas including herbal kinds;  or a glass of red wine with your food.  

Green tea, as well as black tea to a much lesser extent, contains a health giving catechins that researcher have  found anti-inflammatory.

Wine, especially red wine,  contains the phytochemical  resveratrol and other nutrients thought to explain the French Paradox – the low incidence of heart disease in the French population, despite a large intake of saturated fat.  

When drinking juices, dilute them with water or drink 4 oz. (125 ml) portions  to lessen the inflammatory effect of too much blood glucose.

Press here to read more about the benefits of low glycemic foods.

Inflammatory Food for Thought  - Animal products, namely, meat and dairy    Except for cold water fish and their oils, animal products generally have an inflammatory effect on the body, especially the full fat versions, or when not consumed along-side  sufficient fiber and anti-oxidant rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other complex carbohydrates. Modern farming practices that routinely use  hormones;  antibiotics; and commercial feeds that lack the healthy nutrients of pasture grass;  render the meat and dairy products more inflammatory than otherwise.

Organic is important when it comes to meat and dairy foods because pesticides and toxins have an affinity for fat, both our own and that of the animals we eat. These toxins can have an inflammatory effect when consumed.

Buy eggs from chickens fed an Omega 3 rich diet for less inflammatory eggs.

A large proportion of adults lack the ability to digest the milk sugar lactose and suffer stomach upset when consuming dairy that can affect the integrity of the gut wall and increase inflammatory response to other foods. The milk protein casein has been shown to have inflammatory cancer causing effect. You can read about the work of Colin T Campbell on the carcinogenic effects of casein on the body in The China Study.

 Excess saturated fat in meat and dairy has been found to reduce the anti-inflammatory effects of Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils by increasing the production of inflammatory prostaglandins.  Press here, to read more about  how excess saturated fat can increase inflammation.

In many  traditional cultures, milk products are consumed in moderation  or in fermented form with different versions of soured milk,  like yogurt and kefir. The advantage of fermented foods is that they  provide enzyme rich probiotic bacteria that has an anti-inflammatory  effect on gut ecology.  Some people who can’t digest lactose as a rule,  can digest fermented milk products in moderation without ill effect.

Don’t replace butter with margarine made from hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These denatured trans fats have, like saturated fats, an inflammatory effect  on the body, as well as posing other health threats. best avoid.

Be careful how you cook your meat. Charred and well done meat  has been found to have an inflammatory effect on the body, increasing the risk of digestive tract cancers including stomach and bowel cancers. The same goes for consuming nitrates found in hotdogs, bacon and prepared luncheon meats. Nitrates have  been linked to a higher incidence of  stomach and colon cancers.

Anti-inflammatory Diet Solution:  

  • Source organic meat and dairy products that are antibiotic and hormone free, and from animals that have grazed on pasture grass or run wild like game – the resulting meat and dairy has a less inflammatory fat profile and so will you. 
  • Avoid powdered milks and ultra-pasteurized dairy. The high heats of these processes denature proteins and render the dairy even more inflammatory than usual. 
  • Buy low fat versions of dairy and pastured and meat  to reduce the intake of  inflammation causing saturated fats.  Meat from pastured cattle or wild game routinely has less saturated fat versus healthier polyunsaturated fats than cattle raised on conventional feed.
  • Decrease the carcinogenic effect of inflammatory foods like meat by eating it rare as opposed to well done and avoid nitrates in preserved and cured meat products. 
  • Buy nitrate free versions of smoked and cured meats. 
  • Consume cold water fish and their oils like salmon and tuna. However, consume tuna in moderation as it contains high levels of mercury and avoid farm raised salmon, due to the high level of contaminants and lesser levels of Omega 3s than wild salmon. 

Click here to read more about the US government’s recommendations about the intake of tuna and other fish.

Click here for more on the benefits of organic foods.

Inflammatory Food for Thought  - Commercial vegetable oils and products made from them – Most commercial vegetable oils you buy in the grocery stores and on which the processed food industry relies heavily have been produced from  chemical and/or heat extraction processes .

These processes damage or destroy the health giving Omega 6 and Omega 3  oils contained in  the original seed or nut. The resulting oil is often highly inflammatory.

Anti-inflammatory Diet Solution:  

  • Make an effort to get cold or mechanically pressed vegetable oils  – it should say so on the label.
  • Flax and hemp oil are great to drizzle on salads, thereby, increasing your anti-inflammatory Omega 3 intake.  
  • Extra virgin olive oil, while dominate in Omega 9 monounsaturated fats, is a healthy alternative  to most commercial vegetable oils, because it is one of the most widely available mechanically pressed oils and, therefore retains many of the anti-inflammatory nutrients  destroyed  by high heat and toxic chemical processes used to make most  vegetable oils found in grocery stores.

Press here to read more about the benefits of eating the right anti-inflammatory oils and avoiding the inflammatory ones.

Inflammatory Food for Thought  – Commercial baked goods made with a host of cheap refined foods including trans fats,  degraded oils and fats , refined flour,  powdered egg and milk products and oodles of sugar-  I.E.  Store bought mini- cupcakes with bright blue icing  I’ve picked the blue cupcakes for particular vilification,  because somebody served them at an event at my daughter’s school and my mouth fell open (not in order to eat the morsels but from shock)  because  they hit a number of red hot markers on the inflammatory scale. 

For your own health and that of your and other’s children, skip commercial cakes or baked goods prepared with hydrogenated or commercially extracted oil products (trans fats),  artificial colorants (that blue is out of this world), white flour, oodles of high fructose corn syrup  and preservatives. They are the ultimate junk food and, for that reason,  belong in the garbage not your or a child’s mouth.

Inflammatory Food Cautions - The Bitter Part of Sweet – Sugar

Beware of fruit juices and fruit punches chockablock with sugars like naturally occurring fructose or added sugars are not good from an inflammation stand point. The effect on blood sugar levels is the same, whether it’s sucrose, lactose or another kind.

The instant sugars are separated from the original plants (whether beets, berries, sugar cane or other fruits) from their inflammation-calming anti-oxidant nutrients and blood-glucose-leveling fibers, you have a refined ingredient that boosts inflammatory markers. Read labels and be on the lookout for all the ways you can spell sugar.

These baked goods (call them baked ‘bads’) make real butter, pure dark chocolate and old fashioned sugar look like health food.  Don’t let a “low-fat” label  fool you - often the low fat versions of foods, have a whopping extra dose of inflammatory sugars and calories.

Hydrogenated fats are plain bad for your body and your brain. They should not play a role in anyone’s diet, especially a child’s.

Sugar Everywhere
Beware the many guises sugar can wear on a food label. Some common aliases include fructose, glucose, sucrose, glucose solids, diastatic malt,ethyl maltol, dextran, cane juice crystals, crystalline fructose, buttered syrup, blackstrap molasses, molasses, caramel, maltose, galactose, high fructose corn syrup (HFC), invert sugar, demerara, sugar, Barbados sugar, castor sugar, invert sugar, honey, fruit juice concentrate, treacle, syrup, sorghum syrup, evaporated cane juice, refiner's syrup, raw sugar, organic raw sugar, xylose, saccharose, confectioner's sugar,golden syrup, rice syrup, fruit juice, muscavado sugar, maltodextrin, maple syrup, date sugar, brown sugar, yellow sugar, agave nectar, or lactose. Because food manufacturers must list all ingredients by weight, they sometimes choose to list various types of sugar to disguise the fact that the product is laced with the sweet stuff. Thanks to Robert Lustig's Fat Chance for the above list.

Refined flours lack the fiber and micro minerals found in whole grains. Fiber is important for maintaining even blood sugar levels.

Anti-inflammatory Diet Solution:

  • Make your own baked goods using, if possible organic or hormone free butter, milk, cocoa, whole wheat flour , Omega 3 eggs and less sugar than the recipe calls for….  

  • If time doesn’t permit, find commercial versions made with wholesome ingredients.  More and more bakeries  cater to customers who want real food when they indulge -  While considerably more expensive than the packaged baked goods on the grocery market shelf, better to go for quality versus quantity when eating celebratory special-occasion foods.  
  • Read labels on commercial foods  and avoid the junk.  When any ingredients sound like you need a PhD in chemistry to translate, return product to the grocery store shelf.

Inflammatory Food For Thought  French Fries or anything deep fried but especially fries, as they are known in North America, and chips elsewhere.  Potatoes are one of the most consumed vegetables in the United States with a large proportion of them served deep fried,  not a good thing when it comes to inflammation.

While many of the fast food giants including McDonalds, Wendy’s and Burger King shifted from hydrogenated vegetable oils (tran fats) for their fries in the last five to seven years, there are still restaurants who haven’t, unless they are in locations that have banned the  use of trans fats like New York City.

The problem with deep frying is that it is a high fat method of cooking.  We get too much fat generally in our diet – whether it’s saturated fat or polyunsaturated Omega 6 fats. An excess of either in the diet triggers inflammation in the body.


Routinely commercial establishments reuse the fat multiple times, so that carcinogenic debris forms on the oil. Who wants your food soaked in an inflammatory sea of rancid denatured oil? That’s what you get with much of the deep fat frying?

Anti- Inflammatory Diet Solution

  • Eat baked “fries” instead of deep fried or opt for a baked jacket potato with the skin for added nutrients and fiber. Consider baked  sweet potatoes – a more nutrient dense alternative to potatoes.
  • If you walk into a restaurant and smell the distinctive odor of rancid fat, it’s likely the oil in the deep fat fryer. Skip the French fries  or other deep fat fried chips from this place.

Press here for more on the importance of maintaining a healthy ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils in your diet to prevent inflammation.

Must you Eliminate all Inflammatory Foods from your diet?

You don’t necessarily need to  avoid all  inflammatory foods, unless you suffer from health problems  that are inflammatory in nature.

Some inflammatory foods are chockablock with important even essential nutrients and can form part of a healthy balance diet, if you are disease free.  As we’ve seen, there are less inflammatory versions and less inflammatory ways to prepare certain foods like meat and dairy.

Obviously during the healing or treatment process of an inflammatory condition you may want to minimize , if not eliminate entirely  inflammatory foods that might exacerbate or prolong your symptoms, and focus on consuming foods containing an abundance of anti-inflammatory nutrients.


.....Like so much in diet as well as life, balance is key.

With inflammatory foods,  the aim is to tip the balance towards anti-inflammatory foods that help you heal and feel your best.


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